“When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” (Sinclair Lewis, 1935)
“Fascism is a worldwide disease. Fascism’s greatest threat to the United States will come after the war and will manifest within the United States itself.” (Vice President Henry Wallace, 1944)
“…all science fiction occurs in alternate futures and universes,so it can actually happen someday”. (Philip K. Dick)
The “Man in the High Castle”, now Amazon’s most streamed alternative history TV series, has been adapted from the novel of the same name written by Philip K. Dick (1928-1982) set in 1962, the year that it was written. The author, who lived most of his life in Califronia, wrote at least 45 novels and 121 short stories and to date eleven of his works have been adapted for film, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau. Dick’s theme of what happens to a free people when confronted by tyranny continues throughout Man in the High Castle, as well as a concern with what makes us human and the dangers of centralized power. For many of us, concerned with the current rise of trans-national corporate and billionaire-funded fascist ideology, following this dystopian series has been an unnerving experience.
The dark tone of the story-line unfolds with an air of quiet desperation; 85 years after America and the Allies lost World War II. Division of occupied America between competing superpowers is proving to be an unstable arrangement with German Nazis controlling the Eastern states, the Japanese ruling the Western Pacific states, with a buffer zone of neutrality running along the Rocky Mountain regions. We soon learn of mysterious illegal film reels that depict alternate realities, one of which shows what actually happened and exactly how the Allies won the war. As agents of the Resistance attempt to smuggle these films to other operatives and potential sympathsizers, while avoiding their totalitarian controllers, it also becomes clear that some of the characters are also “travelers” who can move between timelines. With a normalization of tyranny, moral ambiguity abounds, and it becomes terrifyingly clear how good people can do bad things in “good conscience” through blind loyal nationalism and partisan loyalties.
While it may seem to some that any comparison of our current administration with Germany’s Third Reich is unwarranted, others see the “handwriting on the wall” or more graphically, Nazi swaztikas now metastasizing as popular tatoos; on flags at right wing white supremacist rallies as well as our corrupt mainstream media howling along with the wolves in power. Deportations, detention camps and voter suppression is on the rise. Citizens are encouraged to report suspicious “others” to the authorities. To be clear, according to the American Heritage Dictionary: “Fascism is a system of government that exercises dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through a merging of state and business leadership with belligerent nationalism”. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines fascism as “a political philosophy or regime that exhalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized, autocractic government headed by a dictatorial leader and forcible
suppression of opposition “.
Just recently a timely “1933:Path to Dictatorship” exhibition opened in Berlin along with a reminder that Hitler promised “to make Germany great again”. Consider, if you will, that the by now familiar seeds of nascent totalitariasm and cult of personality were already evident as soon as this now iconic leader was elected to power: denigration and condemnation of opposition parties, disintegration and corruption of the courts, attacks on organized labor, dismissal of public servants not loyal to the leader, written smears and violence against the press, murder of journalists, as well as of any and all opponents. Soon after the party’s massive and theatrical rallies, there appeared their infamous detention and deportation facilities, initially thought to be only a few labor camps for dissidents and others deemed unsuitable due to their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or political affiliation. A heinous variety of massive and genocidal creulties and torture were seen as a necessary means to an end, which in the long run did not end well. (Michael Winship, “Doubt It Can Happen Here? Tell It To Berlin”, commondreams.org, 10/17, 2018)
While many high level and other Nazis died, escaped or were brought to trial in Nuremburg, others found a warm welcome in here in America. During the chaos following World War II and the collapse of the Third Reich, our American military was in urgent competition with the Soviets for capture of the best of Germany’s scientific minds. Under the code-name “Operation Paperclip“, it was decided that Nazi crimes against humanity should be overlooked in view of their potential value to our military and space-exploration program. As a result, we acquired hundreds of experts in aerodynmics, chemistry, medicine, and rocketry, the most famous being Dr.Werner von Braun who designed a Saturn V rocket that carried our astronauts to the Moon. (Annie Jacobsen, Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists To America, 2014).
Our Paperclip Nazis settled in well here, and history is clear that the pernicious white supremacist and fascist mind set is not foreign to American culture; given the genocidal polices against our Native American residents, and slave-driven culture and Confederate values of our Old South. Nowadays it is increasingly common to see rebel Confederate flags together with Nazi symbols at most of the massive Trump “Make America Great Again” rallies. White supremacist KuKlux Klan members embolded by an increasing tolerance of hate speech have been showing up in disturbingly increasing numbers.
Yale Professor Jason Stanley, author of ” How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them, 2018), thinks we should be very worried given our long history of racial divisiveness which has expanded to include immigrant groups as well as dividing citizens into the “enemy” versus the leader’s supporters. (Cody Ferwick, alternet.org,10/22/2108). In light of recent events, it seems clear that our question is no longer whether or not fascism can happen here but what can we do now to ensure that these life-negative elements, already present, do not take root.